Many executives may be tempted to give personal opinions today following the surprising victory of Donald Trump. Some CEOs already publicly have deplored the fact Trump will shortly become President of the U.S.A. while others have praised The Donald. Both sides are making what could become large mistakes. Executives and others should be extremely cautious when making any political comment on social media or through traditional media. And we can add religion, gender and culture to the danger zones.
Canada, the U.S. and a lot of other countries are proud of their freedoms including free speech. There are limits though and corporate execs are among those who have to set and adhere to their own limits on what they say. They also have to stick to these limits in all their communications including internal memos, emails, texts, tweets and everything else they write and say.
If anyone needs an explanation of why execs have to toe the communications line, we only have to drag out news accounts of the preliminaries and the final campaign for the presidency. Videos, emails and other accounts dating back years were pulled out by various campaigns to prove opponents had their failings. The same will continue to happen; any recording in any form can be brought out by virtually anyone. Once exposed, that record is impossible to refute or erase.
Execs have to realize it is futile to say, “These are my personal remarks and not those of my company…” You are ‘your company’ and will not be separated from your business by the public or by reporters. They have to recognize that it will not only be themselves who suffer from the consequences of their contentious comments, it will be their counterparts, employees, customers, shareholders and board directors. It may feel good to support or oppose Donald Trump but it may not be smart business or fair to those who depend on you. Question whatever you say or write before you hit ‘send’.